A little profile piece by BBC East on the Aircraft Restoration Company in Duxford. The presenter is Andy Gall.
AG: It’s the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Britain this week, and to commemorate this the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will fly over Peterborough at nine fifteen am. The plane that is best remembered was the Spitfire. Affection for the plane hasn’t diminished, especially not at Duxford, home to the Aircraft Restoration Company. The founder of the company, John Romain, took the BBC’s Evan Davis on a tour. (TAPE)
JR: Let’s start by looking at this very corroded lump of a Mark One Spitfire.
ED: That is real Spitfire. It’s a complete wreck.
JR: This aircraft has got fantastic history though. What we’re seeing here is only a piece of what we have. It was a Nineteen Squadron Mark One Spitfire that flew out of here, from Duxford, in May nineteen forty, and was actually shot down on that trip, and barely landed onto Calais beach, where it finally sank. And in the seventies a French museum recovered it. It was eventually then purchased by an American collector, and it’s now come here, as the start of a project to build it back to a flying aeroplane.
ED: Don’t tell me you’re going to restore this complete wreck of twisted bent metal.
JR: You’d be surprised. Even some of these parts that you’re looking at now will end up in the flying machine. Pieces that were manufactured all that time ago, that have been even in sand, salt water and everything, can be recovered.
ED: Who’s going to pay for the restoration of this plane then? Is it an American buyer who would like it turned into a fully fit flying Spitfire?
JR: It varies. It used to be that they were ex-Royal Air Force people who had flown Spitfires, or flown old aircraft, or liked them. But that’s changed now. That’s moved away. We’re seeing now collectors, be it American or British. They love the Spitfire because of its icon. But also a Spitfire now is a trusted asset. It’s an asset that will increase in value for them. It’s far better than them having money in the bank. And so they’re now looking at them in a different way. So the market for them is very good, especially the early ones.
ED: What does a Spitfire cost them?
JR: It really depends on the Mark. If you’re looking at the Mark Nines and Sixteens you can put somewhere between one point five and two million onto them. If you’re looking at Mark Fives, you would start at three million. And who knows on a Mark One, because as yet nobody has put one on the market. But I would think between four and five.
JR: Mark One Spitfire. This will be an amazing machine. This aircraft was lost during the Battle of France. It’s now going through the latter part of a massive restoration. The Merlin engine that you see in the front of here will be the oldest Merlin engine running in the world. It’s an original Merlin Three.
ED: Rolls Royce plastered all over it.
JR: Yes. It’s still got all the Rolls Royce marks on it. Later on in the war they started to take that away, because it was part of production they didn’t need to spend time and money on.
ED: But this looks absolutely brand new. It looks absolutely pristine. So take this one. How much of this is new, and how much is original?
JR: Looking at this chunk of fuselage, you can probably say that sixty per cent of this is new. (PAUSE) So coming out of the hangar now, the aircraft that you’re seeing out there now, the T Nine, it’s painted in Battle of Britain colours of a Spitfire that flew here in the Battle of Britain.
ED: You keep some of these planes. What’s the demand? You do airshows, and …
JR: We do airshows. We do film work. This year in particular of course the Spitfire and the Messerschmitts are very very sought after, because of the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
ED: And we’ve got an airshow here at Duxford.
JR: We’ve got one here at Duxford in September. And that’s bringing together the largest collection of Spitfires that’s been seen for a few years now.
ED: How long does Spitfire desire remain?
JR: Only two weeks ago we had one of our American clients in, who bought his twelve year old son with him. And within an hour his twelve year old son was in the hangar with a river gun and a piece of metal. Went home, and we got a message through from his father saying he is your new apprentice. He is absolutely struck on these Spitfires. And so there’s the continuation. I don’t see that it will ever really stop, certainly in the next fifty years. People will still look at Spitfires as an iconic machine. (LIVE)
AG: How about that? That’s something about the Spitfire. Evan Davis our BBC reporter talking to the founder of the company at Duxford that restores the aircraft, John Romain.
Broadcast 07:52 on Friday 20th August 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire